PATTON – In preparation for the move to its new residence next to the school, the Cambria Heights High School football team played the first of two Saturday afternoon home games this season, so maybe it was appropriate that the Highlanders played lights-out.
Tyler Trybus spearheaded Cambria Heights’ punishing ground game with 193 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Highlanders registered four sacks, forced three fumbles and blocked a punt en route to spoiling Nick Felus’ homecoming as Penn Cambria coach, 42-6, in season-opening Laurel Highlands Conference action at an overcast and breezy Patton Stadium.
“I think I’d give this game at A-plus. One hundred percent,” Highlander senior two-way lineman and captain Noah Donahue said. “I’ve been a starter for four years, and I think this is one of the best games that the team has come together and played like this.”
Donahue had one sack, another that was taken away because of an offensive hold, numerous quarterback pressures and a forced fumble recovered by Zack Weakland to end the first half. He and sophomore Bailey Horvath – who was in on a pair of sacks and blocked a punt in the third quarter that set up Trybus’ third touchdown –formed a terrific tandem in the defensive trenches for the Highlanders.
That performed in beautiful harmony with the Cambria Heights offense, which churned out all 350 of the Highlanders’ yards. The tree-trunk-legged Trybus accumulated the bulk of that on 25 carries, scoring on runs of 2, 17 and 3 yards. The last two of those came in the third quarter, as the Highlanders broke the game open.
Jared Fox tacked on touchdown runs of 12 and 11 yards, the second of which brought the running clock into effect with 2:04 to play in the third quarter. Fox had 85 yards on nine carries.
“It felt pretty good playing in the afternoon. We practiced all week, and we were prepared. The line blocked for us,” Trybus said. “We got off on the right foot.”
Last season, the Highlanders dropped a 6-0 verdict to Penn Cambria in Cresson to open the campaign.
“Traditionally, we’re a slow-starting team,” Heights coach Jarrod Lewis said.
“To get a win, it sets the tone for the season. We wanted to make sure we started fast.
“Our focus all offseason was this first game and Penn Cambria. I’m very proud of these guys.”
Felus, who came over to his Alma mater this season after a stint at Altoona, got 200 yards on 17-of-27 passing from promising-looking freshman Garrett Harrold, who connected with Nick Marinak on a 4-yard scoring toss in the second quarter that got the Panthers within 21-6.
However, Penn Cambria was treading water most of the contest. In addition to the sacks and four running plays that were stopped behind the line of scrimmage, the Panthers also committed 70 yards in penalties.
“We’re not going to let one game define our season,” said Felus, whose team also received eight catches for 115 yards from converted quarterback Jake Tsikalas. “You could see some positive things with our offense.
“We’re going to correct things, but we’re also going to build upon some things.”
Felus spent some time with his newborn daughter right after meeting with his team.
He’s a 1996 graduate of Penn Cambria who is trying to lead the Panthers to their first winning record since 2014.
“I told our guys we’re going to play for our community,” Felus said. “We might have let them down a bit today, but we’re going to keep bringing our hard hat and our lunch pail to work.”
Penn Cambria, though, fell behind 14-0 before the first quarter was out. The Panthers got the opening kickoff, but Donahue tackled Carter Smith for a 3-yard loss, and then Horvath sacked Harrold. On fourth down, Marinak’s knee touched down as he accepted the punt snap, giving Heights the ball at the Penn Cambria 12.
Fox scored on the very next play going around left end.
“It (the quick score) really changes the game. It moves all the momentum,” Fox said.
“Everyone’s attitude is up from that point on.”